Mummy on the Orient Express: Wounded in a Forgotten War…

I haven’t forgotten that I promised a follow up post for Kill The Moon, however, I am probably going to return to that post after the season ends, in order to include examples from the whole series.

MRS PITT: Is there some sort of fancy dress thing on this evening?
MAISIE: I don’t think so. Why do you ask?
MRS PITT: Well, that fellow over there, dressed as a mummy monster thing.
MAISIE: Who do you mean? I can’t see him.
MRS PITT: You! You! Throw that man out of my dining car. It’s disgusting.
WAITER: I’m sorry, Madam. Which man?
MRS PITT: Which man?! I’ll have your job. That man, right there, dressed as a monster.
MAISIE: Mama, there isn’t anyone there. Are you feeling okay?
MRS PITT: Don’t you dare lie to me, girl. I won’t be made a fool of. Stop it. Stop it. Stop him at once. Right now.
MAISIE: Mama, there’s no one there

When first watching Mummy on the Orient Express, I posted on my facebook profile that Steven Moffat needed to learn about moral injury. While most people are familiar with PTSD and the staggering effect it can have on service members and veterans, moral injury is less well known in popular discourse. While PTSD is a psychological condition  that affects the parts of the brain that deal with the regulation of fear, moral injury, “is the result of reflection on memories of war or other extreme traumatic conditions. It comes from having transgressed one’s basic moral identity and violated core moral beliefs”-Brock and Lettini.

Yet ignorance does not negate how painful and deadly moral injury can be for those who are suffering from it. Moral injury, like PTSD, is invisible, and as a result it can be easy to be dismissive towards the suffering of those experiencing moral injury. We rely on sight to be able to discern what is real and authentic, and such an attitude applies towards our understanding of injuries. We use our sight to gauge the seriousness of a wound and the perceived discomfort of the person with the injury. Injuries that we can’t see, make us uncomfortable since it can be difficult for us to understand the seriousness of such injuries.For instance if a person is on crutches,  we know  that said person will have trouble time getting to and from class, as a result a friend might offer a ride or offer to carry the person’s books. Yet how does one help those suffering from invisible wounds? Additionally, and perhaps this is an indication of cynicism on my part, physical injuries can help us assess the depth and length of support we offer another person. Is there a chance of healing? How long will the person be injured? Do I really have the time and energy and resources (including emotional) to support another person through their difficult journey? What are the chances that I or someone I love will experience this type of injury? Invisible wounds are harder to predict and control.

In this episode, the Doctor and others on the train are threatened by a mummy that is only visible towards those about to die. When Mrs. Pitt complains about someone in costume her granddaughter and those around her understandably question her sanity and health. She does not realize that the mummy is invisible to everyone else but her. In “real life” my reaction would not be much different than her granddaughter’s. Yet even when she dies, her death is dismissed by the other passengers as a health factor, since she was quite old and frail. The only people that have a hunch that something more sinister might be at hand are the Doctor and Clara since experience has taught them that not much is impossible in the universe.

DOCTOR: Come on, Captain. Where would we all be if we all followed our job descriptions, hmm? Good question. Glad you asked. In your case, you’d be doing something instead of climbing inside a bottle.
QUELL: I have followed the procedure for accidental death to the letter.
DOCTOR: Yes, I’m sure you have. And I’m sure you do just enough of your job to avoid complaints.
QUELL: You don’t know anything about me.
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QUELL: There is no evidence of any attack or other parties
DOCTOR: Yes, let’s just sit around and wait for the evidence while the bodies pile up. Or here’s a crazy thought. We could do something to stop it. Why am I even talking to you?

Quell, wants to pretend that nothing unusual is going on. As the captain of the ship, he is responsible for what happens to the passengers, a responsibility that can be daunting in the face of trouble. As a result, he chooses to ignore any hint of suspicious activity. The Doctor points out that his reaction is somehow traced to his experiences in war. Though the Doctor is not sure of the specifics, he knows that Quell wants to try and put his past experiences behind him by seeking solace in a job that is supposed to be relatively trauma-free. And when evidence that something more troubling may be occurring, Quell immediately seeks to distance himself from it. The Doctor, however, understands that ignoring a problem does not magically solve it.

When service members return from war-there is an expectation-by some family members, friends, and perhaps the individual service member, that things will be able to quickly go back to normal, especially if the service member has no discernible injuries. Popular media loves to show case welcome home stories and they are often framed in a fairy tale fashion: the hero has been gone conquering enemies, and now is home and can live happily ever after with loved ones. Yet as the high incidents of alcoholism and suicide demonstrate, some veterans and service members struggle to move past their experiences of war. Furthermore, even those who seem to outwardly be doing well or who aren’t struggle from alcoholism, depression, anxiety etc may still find transitioning home to prove challenging.

As a society we express shock and horror at learning about the suicide rate (about 22 a day), the divorce rate, or the homelessness rate of veterans, and for a few weeks or months we demand change. But after a while as wars languish or are “ended,” and as other issues come to the media forefront, the experiences of our veterans and service members are forgotten We want them to forget their service in a warzone, except to titillate us with details that glorify war. Or at the very least we expect them to act like Quell- who at least on the surface appears to have moved on. If veterans and service members can’t mentally let go of their time in a war zone, we want them to at least go through the motions of normality.

DOCTOR: Oh, come on, Captain. How many people have to die before you stop looking the other way?

………..

QUELL: It turns out its three. The amount of people that had to die before I stopped looking the other way.

At some point denial no longer becomes feasible. For Quell, the death of another person, forces him to wake up and confront the stark reality of his situation. If he wanted to stop the deaths, he would need to get to the root of the problem.

Likewise, in the case, of our returning service members and veterans we need to stop pretending that war is a glorious game, as depicted in the movies. We can’t claim to support our troops and our veterans and then expect them to keep quiet about their experiences, or be able to simply move on and forget about what they have gone through. If we want to truly support our troops than we will have to go beyond trite clichés and the posting of yellow ribbons and deal with the fact that war can be messy and painful. Those of us who are civilians will never understand what our service members and veterans go through/have gone through, but we can provide a listening ear that does not condemn or judge. We can insist that our nation provide adequate health care and support for those asked to fight on our behalf. We can critically think about how our nation’s obsession with war and violence may be less about security and more about profit and greed.

QUELL: You really think it can sense psychological issues?
DOCTOR: It seems so. Why?
QUELL: When you said I’d lost the stomach for a fight, I wasn’t wounded in battle as such, but. My unit was bombed. I was the sole survivor. Not a scratch on me. But post-traumatic stress. Nightmares. Still can’t sleep without pills.
It is important to note, that unlike PTSD, moral injury is not a psychological diagnosis. There is no checklist that a clinician can consult nor any medication that can be prescribed. And of course one can have both moral injury and PTSD at the same time. I have no doubt that Quell would experience PTSD after being the sole survival of his unit-but he may also suffer from moral injury. The importance of one’s unit is drilled into the service member. Each person in the unit must be able to perform at top capacity in order to ensure the safety of their fellow service members. They share an experience that few understand and in times of danger, boredom, etc they have their unit to turn to as family members and friends are often thousands of miles away. They are supposed to be willing to do whatever it takes to care for their fellow service members. This emphasis on the unity of a unit is a essential part of the moral fabric of the military and the inability to fulfill that commitment can be devastating. One can feel as if he/she has violated a deeply sacred moral code-and the fact that such a violation was unintentional matters little. It is hard to imagine that Quell could have done something to protect his unit from a bombardment-especially if it was a surprise attack. Yet the sense of failure is still acute. How do you make sense of surviving while everyone else died? What could you have done differently?

Moral injury calls into question one whole’s identity. We all have concepts of moral actions, of what is “right” and “wrong” and even in war, at least on paper, there is a clear understanding of what actions are acceptable and what actions are not. And most of us have clear criteria for what makes a person moral or immoral and we would like to think that we would do the right thing in all situations. But the reality of war rarely conforms to our neat little categories of right and wrong. Snap decisions are made, and actions occur that are beyond an individual’s control. Most people would not even think to blame Quell for surviving or accuse him of breaking the code of morality that stresses the bond between service members. Yet, reassurances of, “you couldn’t have done anything” and, “you didn’t do anything wrong” sounds cheap and hallow.

DOCTOR: That doesn’t sound like a scroll. That sounds like a flag! And if that sounds like a flag, if this is a flag, that means that you are a soldier, wounded in a forgotten war thousands of years ago. But they’ve worked on you, haven’t they, son? They’ve filled you full of kit. State of the art phase camouflage, personal teleporter.
PERKINS: Ten seconds.

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The deaths from the mummy do not stop until the Doctor recognizes that the mummy is in fact a soldier from a forgotten war. While the war has ostensibly ended centuries ago, for the soldier the war continued. Additionally, once the Doctor found out the mummy was a soldier in a forgotten war, he treated the mummy with respect and not as a helpless victim nor as a horrible monster. One of the important things to remember about moral injury is that it does not render veterans and service members as victims to be coddled. Such a view is condescending and patronizing especially coming from those of us who have never been deployed to a war zone. Instead learning about moral injury should bring about a sense of shame that as a nation we give lip service to the notion of supporting our troops and veterans, but in reality we quickly forget those we ask to fight on our behalf. And even if we view war or a particular war with disdain, that does not negate our obligation to support our veterans and service members.

It is easy for those of us who have never been to war to tell veterans and service members to just “get over it,” especially if years or decades have passed since the ending of a particular war. We tend to view the departure of boots on the ground as the end of a war and we fail to recognize how invisible wounds make it difficult for those who fought to leave the war beyond. And as long as we as a society continue to turn a blind eye to the continued war that many veterans and service members face, there will be more instances of death, drug and alcohol abuse, and homelessness.

Kill The Moon: A Theological Reflection on God’s Intervention and on Free Will

DOCTOR: I knew that eggs are not bombs. I know they don’t usually destroy their nests. Essentially, what I knew was that you would always make the best choice. I had faith that you would always make the right choice.
CLARA: Honestly, do you have music playing in your head when you say rubbish like that?
DOCTOR: It wasn’t my decision to make. I told you.

CLARA: Do you know what? Shut up! I am so sick of listening to you!
DOCTOR: Well, I didn’t do it for Courtney. I didn’t know what was going to happen. Do you think I’m lying?

God’s omniscience (God as all knowing) and omnipotence (God as all powerful), are some of the key pillars of popular Christian understandings of God. Yet despite God’s unlimited power and knowledge, most Christians affirm some notion of free will. In fact, when asked about suffering and why God does not stop it, the answer frequently given is, “well God does not want to impede on our free will.” On the one hand, that sounds like a sufficient answer. God does not want to turn us into robots forced to do God’s will. On the other hand, when one is in the midst of suffering such an answer seems unfair and pathetic. So a deity, who could avoid suffering, chooses not to in order to give us free will? If another person were to say, refuse to stop a rape or a murder, they would at the very least be disparaged for their lack of action and in some cases face criminal charges. Why does the same disdain not directed towards God. God, who is supposedly the gold standard of morality is given a free pass to simply walk away from devastating situations. God is given such leeway because God’s “ways are bigger than our ways” or “because God values our free will so much.” Quite frankly, I would take an active God who would intervene in say horrible atrocities like the Holocaust then a silent one who claims to respect humanity’s decisions. Some argue, “well if God got involved in those events we would be like automatic robots.” Really? An all knowing, all powerful deity has less common sense than the average parent to recognize that while they need to give their children choices and responsibilities to grow, they have a responsibility to protect their children from harm or at least from hurting others. It’s one thing for a parent to see a child self-destruct and then say, “I can’t control this kid, I need to let him/her make her own choices” but if a parent were to say, “well my kid is planning to rape or murder another person, which is wrong, but hey my child needs to be responsible for his/her decision” they would understandably be condemned for their attitude. But God, who is supposedly the loving parent of seven billion people-gets to sit back while massive amounts of innocent people are being slaughtered, raped, kidnapped, tortured, or are suffering from poverty, infectious diseases, cancer, etc?

In Kill The Moon, the Doctor forces Clara, Courtney, and Lundvik to decide the course of human history. He pops into the TARDIS and pushes them to make a decision-which regardless of what they choose could spell disaster. If they didn’t kill the egg, the creature inside could destroy all humanity, if they kill the egg, they face the very real possibility of killing an innocent life. Now in all fairness, the Doctor claims he does not know what would happen, yet he seems to understand that the egg did not in fact pose any threat to humanity. Of course, the parallels between the Doctor and the Christian God is not perfect. And unlike the God of Christian theology, the Doctor does not in fact know everything. However, in many ways that makes this understanding of God seem even more appalling. God knows that thousands of people will die an agonizing death by Ebola in West Africa, this after experiencing horrific decades of civil war but God chooses not to do anything. When thinking of all the pain and suffering in the world, it seems to be a cop out to absolve God of any responsibility.

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DOCTOR: No, that was me allowing you to make a choice about your own future. That was me respecting you.
CLARA: Oh, my God, really? Was it? Yeah, well, respected is not how I feel.

Nonetheless, even though many hold onto the theology that God let’s bad things happen in order to respect our free will, when painful and horrible things happen in their lives, they will more often than not continue to pray for God’s intervention. It’s as if when it comes to worldwide disasters God will not intervene in order to respect humanity’s free will (or when it comes to disasters that effect other people God will not intervene) yet the hope and prayer is that God will still personally intervene in their specific situation. God might allow thousands to die of Ebola, but save one person from a horrific car accident, God might allow one kid to be beaten to death, yet save another. This presents a picture of a fickle God, choosing to intervene and “respect” humanity’s free will in some cases, but in others deciding to intervene. Why does God decide to intervene in some situations and stand back in others? Why do people praise God for saving their lives but seem indifferent about the deaths of other people?

The Doctor decides to step out of this situation, placing the responsibility for deciding what happens to the egg, on the shoulders of others. When Clara confronts the Doctor, she is understandably angry. Here is someone who has intervened in countless of situations, who initially refused to get back on the TARDIS when Clara asks him to earlier in the episode. He even states that whatever happens in the future is up to us. Meaning he would be involved in the decision making as well. Yet the Doctor chooses this moment to not intervene, and Clara rightly points out he was being condescending. He was essentially saying, “oh well, time for humanity to grow up and make a choice for their future.”

CLARA: I nearly didn’t press that button. I nearly got it wrong. That was you, my friend, making me scared. Making me feel like a bloody idiot.
DOCTOR: Language.
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For Christians, one of the biggest examples of God’s “intervention” or active participation in the events of human history is the incarnation. Now, like the resurrection, there are various ways to understand the incarnation, either literally, metaphorically etc but in its various understandings, God somehow becomes intimately involved in human affairs through Jesus Christ. That story is used as the prime example of God’s love for humanity, yet what happens after the incarnation? God gets involved in the affairs of humanity and then backs away, until deciding to randomly intervene again? God becomes one of us, suffers, dies, resurrects, and then what? Goes back to the heavenly realm beyond the fluffy clouds?

Clara finds the doctor’s answer that it was humanity’s decision to make the right choice inadequate. The Doctor is not a dispassionate observer, he gets involved with humans on a regular basis. Gallifrey, his planet of origin, was never home in the way earth was. He ran away from Gallifrey. And while he travels through time and space, he keeps coming back to earth. A majority of his companions come from earth. She is effectively saying, earth is your responsibility as well.

Doesn’t God have an even bigger responsibility towards earth?

DOCTOR: I was helping.
CLARA: What, by clearing off?
DOCTOR: Yes.
CLARA: Yeah, well, clear off! Go on. You can clear off. Get back in your lonely, your lonely bloody Tardis and you don’t come back.
DOCTOR: Clara. Clara.
CLARA: You go away. Okay? You go a long way away.

For the longest time I held onto this notion of God. An all powerful all knowing God, who sometimes intervenes but more often than not wants to “respect” humanity’s free will. Yet after a while, I could no longer adhere to such an understanding of God. I couldn’t read about children being slaughtered in a senseless war, or dying from starvation or abuse, and nonchalantly say, “well that’s just humanity’s fault not God. We choose to do that to one another. If God intervened God would be turning us into unthinking robots.” But why is it when another human intervenes to stop someone from committing murder, they aren’t accused of impeding on someone else’s free will? If another person has the power to stop someone else from harming others, they are expected to do so. And yet questioning such an understanding of God often results in the argument, “well God is all powerful and all knowing, who are we to question God. We don’t understand God’s ways.” I don’t want to believe in a God, who for whatever reason, can justify not intervening in the suffering of millions of people. I don’t care what noble purposes this God has, for me this God is nothing more than a monster arbitrarily deciding if and when to intervene. Deciding which lives are more valuable than others.

I understood Clara’s anger towards the Doctor. If the Doctor had the knowledge of what was going to happen or at least theories that could have swayed their decision, why would he keep it to himself? Humanity had chosen to kill the egg, Clara had to decide against it. Humanity often makes the wrong choice and it results in massive amounts of death and destruction. Shouldn’t one who has the ability and knowledge to prevent it, do something? Yet unlike, more Orthodox notions of God, the Doctor at least could not be 100% sure of what could happen. In more orthodox understandings of God, God does know everything-God knows what actions human will choose, God knows what the consequences will be, and to be this makes God’s non-intervention or sporadic intervention to be a much more grievous offense than the Doctor’s.

Now if we get rid of this understanding of God what other options are there? Well thankfully smarter people than I have wrestled with this issue for years, and there are a variety of responses. And in another blog post I will briefly examine said alternatives.

The Caretaker: Why We Lie

Danny: It’s funny, you only really know what someone thinks of you when you know what lies they’ve told you. I mean you say you’ve seen wonders, you’ve seen amazing things and you kept them secret. From me. So what do you think of me, Clara?

Clara had a myriad of reasons for why she kept her travels with the Doctor a secret: mainly because it sounds insane. How do you explain to someone that you occasionally travel through space and time with an alien with two hearts that looks human? How would one even begin that conversation? And even if Danny believed her or Clara voluntarily showed him the TARDIS-there was always a possibility that he would think all of this was overwhelming and would leave her. Yet despite her feelings for Danny and her attempts at keeping a normal life by working as a teacher, she hasn’t given up traveling with the Doctor. Why would she? She gets to travel to distant worlds, meet Robin Hood, go into the future, and see strange aliens and creatures. But yet she doesn’t tell the Doctor about Danny. She of course lets him know that she is seeing someone, but he doesn’t really ask and she does not tell. Of course noticing twelve’s disdain for soldiers, that would make for a difficult conversation. So, she does what any control freak would do and she tries to hold on tightly to both of her lives while attempting to keep them separate. In the beginning of the episode, she even admits, albeit it very briefly that she can’t keep that up, but then she quickly calms herself down and gives herself a pep talk.

To a certain extent, there is some division between different areas of our life. For example, we might be less formal and uptight with our friends then we are with our bosses or professors. But that’s not to say that we are lying or that we transform into different people depending on who we hang out with. If we are honest with ourselves, most of us aren’t great actors nor are the majority of us psychopaths who can portray a charming façade for long periods of time. For the vast majority of us, hiding our main characteristics becomes difficult after an extended period. Superficial behaviors and negative vices can be controlled or minimized for a certain amount of time-for instance if one is proficient at cursing, one might be able to control his or her language while at work, but if we are lazy or mean spirited, at some point who we truly are will come to the fore.

For a while, Clara more or less succeeds in keeping her two worlds separate. There are times when her worlds almost collide but she is able to avert disaster. She manages to control the Doctor to a certain extent-ensuring that he does not pick her up in public, have her back by a certain time, etc and she is able to control Danny by keeping him from asking a bunch of questions, vaguely answering the questions he does have, and quickly making up excuses for why, for instance, her skin is shades darker hours after Danny had seen her or why she went into a closet wearing one set of clothes and then comes back out wearing another. Unfortunately, no matter how organized one is, one can’t control outside events and people for very long. As the audience, we knew that at some point in this series, something was going to give. Clara was not going to be able to continue this charade for long. In The Caretaker her hand is forced, and she has to tell the Doctor and Danny the truth. The problem is that by not taking the initiative and voluntarily telling Danny the truth, she risks losing him. And understandably so. Nobody likes being lied to. Furthermore, how can someone love a person that they don’t really know? In addition, Clara’s lies almost risked a countless number of lives as Danny had no reason to trust the Doctor, so when he saw the Doctor placing strange objects around the school, as a former soldier, why shouldn’t he suspicious? He had no reason to think that the Doctor was trying to save the school, not harm it.

Yet even when Danny sees the Skovox Blitzer, or the killing machine, and the Doctor briefly gets rid of it, Clara continues to try and keep the masquerade going.

Clara: Yes! It’s a play! Shut up. It is a play. We are rehearsing a play. Shh! Shh! shh! A surprise play! And, um, you see the vortex thing is a lighting effect. Very clever. And that thing. It’s one of the kids. In fancy dress. Really, really good fancy dress.

Now of course the show does break into some humor, as Danny mistakenly thinks that Clara is a space woman and the Doctor is her dad. But things quickly become serious. As Clara is dragging Danny out, the Doctor tells her,

Doctor: And when this is all over, you can finish the job.

Clara: How do you mean?

Doctor: Well you’ve explained me to him, you haven’t explained him to me.

Things become even more intense when Danny and Clara are alone:

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Yet Clara isn’t the only one trying to hide who she is-the Doctor takes part in a form of duplicity. No I am not talking about his disastrous attempt at acting like a normal human being by getting a job as the school’s caretaker-but the Doctor tries to hide who is from himself. Lying to other people becomes difficult as we continue to pile on lies since we need to remember what we have previously told them, but lying to one’s self leaves one vulnerable to a brutal awakening. You would think that the Doctor would have learned by now that the very things he despises often reflect a form of self-hatred. But just like human beings, we continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. In this case, Danny calls out the Doctor for his hatred of soldiers:

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And of course we sometimes have the help of friends who enable us to continue lying to ourselves. In time heist, PSI tells Clara that she keeps making excuses for the Doctor.

In this episode, the lies that Clara and the Doctor have told begins to fall apart. The Doctor, seems to brush off Danny’s criticisms, while Clara recognizes that lying is no longer an option, not if she wants to keep Danny.

There are a variety of reasons why we tell lies-sometimes it’s to avoid getting in trouble, other times it’s to avoid doing something we don’t want to do, or we want to avoid hurting another person’s feelings, or we want to manipulate others into doing what we want. And sometimes we need to lie to protect others, (ie if we are trying to keep someone safe and from being killed, I think that takes precedence over any ethical quandaries one might have over lying). However, sometimes lying simply provides the illusion of self-protection.

Clara lied in order to protect both of her worlds and her relationships with the Doctor and Danny. The Doctor often lies ostensibly to protect his companions. But the Doctor also lies to himself as a form of protection. The truth can hurt-especially if it exposes something about ourselves that we don’t want to know.

I am known for being honest-sometimes brutally so. If someone annoys me, I tell them. If I think they are wrong, I will correct them. I don’t like lying-it just seems like a massive waste of time. Yet I’m not perfect. However, when I lie, it’s often to myself. And the problem with lying to oneself is that eventually you begin to believe the lies and they become your truths. One of the biggest lies I tell myself on a daily basis is that I’m ok and I don’t need anyone else. I’m highly independent. Based on my childhood, I’ve had to be. My relationship with family members is virtually nonexistent past maybe a few phone calls or text messages, and perhaps a visit once a year. When trouble calls, my family is often the last to know. But the same goes for them as well-when they are in trouble, I am the last to know. But my family life has enabled me to gain a certain level of independence. (I say certain mainly because my cooking skills are non-existent…but that’s why we have microwaves right?).

Yet the truth is that there are times when I am not ok and when I need help. But the lies I tell myself are that I don’t need anyone else and that if I reach out for help I will be abandoned. To be fair, past experience has sometimes proven that to be correct. Reaching out to my family often resulted in ridicule or silence. And reaching out to others-in particular institutions have at best left me in some sort of limbo-and in the worst case, resulted in me losing my health insurance, my shelter, and my source of income and having to move back home to my emotionally abusive mother. Yet even though those particular experiences were horrible, the reality is that not everyone is like that, and I have received kindness and strength from others. In particular my teachers and professors throughout the years have been there for me.

Yet every time I go through a dark period trapped by depression, the same lies whisper into my ear again, “I don’t need anyone. If I reach out I will be abandoned and betrayed. The thinking behind these lies is that if I don’t allow myself to become vulnerable, then I can’t be hurt. But the truth is, when I lock myself away, when I shut myself off, I’m doing more harm than good for myself. Isolation, also leads to other lies-lies that state I am not good enough, that my life does not matter, etc-but those lies start from ones that are meant to protect me.

But what does it mean to embrace truth?(or me being a good post-modernist/progressive Christian, perhaps I should say truths…?) Clara had to embrace telling Danny and the Doctor the truth, as well as coming to terms with the fact that she couldn’t keep living life at the pace she was going. And the Doctor and Clara were both told the truth about the Doctor, (though of course that does not come to a head until next week…) I can’t speak for other people, but what I’ve been learning especially as I go through a particular difficult episode of anxiety and depression, is that it is ok to need other people. In fact, in order to survive, reaching out is mandatory. I’ve needed to admit to myself the truth that I can’t live my life in complete isolation, not if I want to survive. Depression feeds on isolation and loneliness.

One of the things that has helped me to reach out to others-is my theology on God. I’ve mentioned before how the God I held onto as a child was all powerful, and all knowing, and while loving was incredibly vengeful. This God demanded obedience. In addition, the theology espoused by my childhood church was one of them vs us. Those not within our little circle were to be distrusted and even within our circle we had to be weary of backbiting and those who would talk about us for not being “holy” enough. Yet the theology I hold onto now, is one that endorses a God who is not afraid to be vulnerable. Love requires a demonstration of vulnerability, and being willing to join in another person’s journey of suffering requires that one be willing to feel pain. The God I now hold onto, loves humanity unabashedly, loves me unabashedly. I don’t need to hide from this God, nor run away out of shame for my flaws and weaknesses. This God journeys with me through the darkest moments. And this God desires relationship-but relationships, as Clara learned, requires openness. And what is becoming clear to me, as I continue on this journey, is that one’s relationship with God, can’t really be lived in isolation. We need other people. We change and develop based on those we interact with. Furthermore, God often works through the people in our lives. For me, when I am isolated from others, I also feel isolated from God. And this is coming from an introvert…

Clara needed to let go of the lies that she had everything under control and that she could have a relationship while withholding a major part of her life. The Doctor continues to lie to himself about who he is. And next week those lies come to a head when Clara is able to see him for who he truly is. The lies I need to let go are those that tell me I am alone, I don’t need anyone, and that I am unlovable. What lies are you holding onto?

Time Heist: A Reflection on Mortality

MADAME KARABRAXOS: You gave me this number. My name is Madame Karabraxos. I was once the wealthiest person in the Universe. I need your assistance.  I’m dying, with many, many regrets. But one, perhaps, you may be able to help me with.

When I first saw this episode, I was a bit confused by the ending. Why did Madam Karabraxos suddenly have a change of heart? People don’t just wake up one day and say, “oh well I was a horrible person, now I need to right all of my wrongs.” Something dramatic must have happened to change her. However, on second viewing, I realized something dramatic did happen to her: she finally became aware of her own mortality and she recognized how her cruelty has left her facing death alone. And as death inches closer, she becomes desperate for one more chance to go back in time and do one good thing-perhaps make her life mean something. Of course that one action does not negate all the wrongs she did, but it puts into stark relief the importance of ensuring that we make the most of the time we have, because unlike Madam Karabraxos, those of us in the real world, won’t have the opportunity to go back in time. We don’t get do overs.

On the surface, this episode seems to lack depth. The Doctor, Clara, and some one off characters need to find a way to rob an unbreakable bank. Pretty sure there have been quite a few books, TV shows, and movies with the premise of robbing an unbreakable bank. Yet sprinkled throughout the episode are hints of something a bit deeper: glimpses of loneliness and despair.

Saibra transforms into anything or anyone that she touches. Her ability to change is what enables the group to get inside the bank and avoid initial detection. In addition, because she has changed so often she finds it incredibly easy to read faces. As a result when the Doctor lies to the group and says he has no idea what the capsules in the second suitcases are, Saibra is able to quickly call him out on his lies. The Doctor claims that her ability to transform is a gift and she responds with disdain:

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As a child, I remember asking and being asked the question, “if you could have one superpower, what would it be?” Of course my answer changed every time I was asked, but being able to shape shift was an answer that I definitely used more than once. And why not? Being able to turn into another person or animal and maintain that form as long as I wanted? Who wouldn’t want to do that but Saibra quickly points out that her gift comes at a price: she can become other people, but she can never be known or touched by another person. Regardless of what we may say about our physical bodies not being important, for many of us they are a central component of our identity. Our body’s limits and strengths  define how we relate to the world and others in some way. As babies, we need to touch and be touched in order to thrive and even survive. Without constant touch and affection, we can develop serious developmental, emotional, and social issues even if all our other basic needs are met. Even as we age, touch and being able to relate to others on a physical and emotional level, is extremely important. Yet Saibra’s mutation essentially cuts her off from others. Other people distrust her. In addition, for some-especially those who hate themselves-she represents a sort of condemnation. When people see her-they see what they hate. They see themselves as they really are as well and the projections that they have of themselves-both positive and negative come to light. What others consider a gift or a superpower, isolates herself from others.

Another example of loneliness is found in the story of Psi. Psi-the augmented human-is essentially a walking computer. He can instantly download information. Instead of having to read and remember everything, his brain acts like a computer saving the information and processing it at the same time. He also has the ability to manually delete memories. Clara points out the advantage of such an ability, while Psi explicates that it comes at a price:

CLARA: You can delete your memories?
PSI: Yeah, it’s not as fun as it sounds.
CLARA: I’ve got a few I wish I could lose.
PSI: And I lost a few I wish I hadn’t. No, I was, I was interrogated in prison. And I guess I panicked. I didn’t want to be a risk to the people close to me, so
CLARA: You deleted your friends?
PSI: My friends, anyone who ever helped me, my family.
CLARA: Your family?
PSI: Of course my family.
CLARA: How could you do that?
PSI: Well, I don’t know. (sighs) I suppose I must have loved them.

Memory is a funny thing. Our memories are never an objective snapshot of reality but are filtered through our own particular lens. And memories often change-in subtle ways-we might remember something else, or other experiences we have had influence the meaning we assign to said memories. And of course, we forget a lot of things. I’m sure quite a few of us have memories we wish we could forget, yet memories are vital to who we are. They help us make sense of ourselves and the world around us. Memories tap into our deepest emotions-invoking feelings of happiness, sadness, anger, grief etc.

Those of us who have experienced trauma and abuse-deal with it in varying ways. Our bodies and brains are really good at trying to protect us. For some of us that means that our ability to remember becomes hindered. Going through life it feels as if we are living in a hazy fog. The events and memories that we hold dear, often seem to slip away without our trying. And that’s scary because we all know that all that will remain of us at one point is our memories. The people that we love will one day pass away and our memories of them and our interactions with them will be a source of pain, pride, anger, happiness etc. And one day we will die and be nothing more than memories Forgetting is terrifying. Psi-by erasing memories of his family and friends also erased an essential component of his identity for we are all shaped in part by the experiences we have shared with our loved ones. In addition, being forgotten is scary, because it expresses a finality. Being forgotten is almost the same as never having existed.

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Psi-when he thought he was dying, was confronted by the reality that he was alone. He had no memories of those he loved to comfort him-no assurances that he will be remembered-that his life mattered. He saw no one.

Madam Karabraxos, on the other hand, was haunted by her memories. And the Doctor-an old man himself, whose regrets and memories contribute to his intense self-loathing, warns her as much.

DOCTOR: Give me a call me some time
KARABRAXOS: You’ll be dead.
DOCTOR: Yeah, you’ll be old. We’ll get on famously. You’ll be old and full of regret for the things that you can’t change

The Doctor however, provides her with an opportunity to do one good thing before she dies. The Doctor can’t reverse every instance of death and destruction she caused, but can help her make things right for one species. Madam Karabraxos lived a life based on greed and exploitation. Money is all that mattered to her and life was of secondary importance. She created clones of herself, only to kill them when they disobeyed her or failed at something. She exploited the teller’s love for his partner in order to get him to kill people. Madam Karabraxos lived a life based on selfishness and hatred, and as a result she was going to die alone. The Doctor, however, provided her with one chance to do something right. It’s a shame she waited until the end to do something good.

How about us? How are we living our lives on a daily basis? How do we want to be remembered? When death comes knocking our door, we won’t be able to call the Doctor and plead for one more chance at making things right.

Listen: Fear Makes Companions of Us All

Fear serves an important evolutionary purpose: namely survival. Fear enables us to mentally and physically discern threats and dangers and our body automatically begins acting in ways that will hopefully increase our chances of survival. As the Doctor explains to Rupert while they are confronted by what may be a monster, hiding under his bed sheet, fear can be good:

DOCTOR: Are you scared? The thing on the bed, whatever it is, look at it. Does it scare you?
RUPERT: Yes.
DOCTOR: Well, that’s good. Want to know why that’s good?
RUPERT: Why?
DOCTOR: Let me tell you about scared. Your heart is beating so hard, I can feel it through your hands. There’s so much blood and oxygen pumping through your brain, it’s like rocket fuel. Right now, you could run faster and you could fight harder, you could jump higher than ever in your life. And you are so alert, it’s like you can slow down time. What’s wrong with scared? Scared is a superpower. It’s your superpower.

Yet fear can also become an obsession. Haunting both our nightmares and our waking moments. In this episode, the Doctor becomes gripped by the desire to find what exactly is lurking behind the shadows, preying on our fears and ensuring that we are never alone:

DOCTOR: Yes, you know sometimes when you talk to yourself, what if you’re not?
CLARA: Not what?
DOCTOR: What if it’s not you you’re talking to? Proposition. What if no one is ever really alone? What if every single living being has a companion, a silent passenger, a shadow? What if the prickle on the back of your neck, is the breath of something close behind you?
CLARA: How long have you been travelling alone?
DOCTOR: Perhaps I never have.

What is scarier than a threat that we can’t see, yet which we have an inkling is there, watching our every move? The purpose of fear is to keep us alive and enable us to discern potential threats, but how can we protect ourselves over something that can’t be seen? That can strike at any moment?

The Doctor Who fandom will spend the next few months or years debating whether or not a monster actually existed in this episode. Is it ghost? An alien? Or is the monster simply the figment of the character’s collective imaginations? But regardless of whether or not there actually was a monster in the episode, Listen effectively plays on humanity’s fear of vulnerability. A fear that can be seen in the smallest child. And what renders into sharp focus our vulnerability more than imagining our own deaths or the deaths of those we love? Death is the ultimate boogeyman. We do whatever we can to delay it or to at least push the thought out of our mind, but no matter what we do-no matter how we attempt to soothe our anxiety-we know that death awaits all of us and it is only a matter of time.
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Of course, most of us are able to push aside our anxiety in order to go about our daily lives. But as someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, the fear and the allure of death is never far from my mind. One the one hand, death terrifies me. Like the Doctor. Clara, and Orson, who are terrified by the noises that seem to come from outside the spaceship-even though no life exists beyond their doors, death deeply frightens me. It is the great unknown. Death in my mind is a menacing presence waiting to snatch my loved ones away and there’s absolutely nothing I can do to prevent it. Death can take so many different shapes and forms that even if one successfully prevents one form-another will inevitable takes its place. Yet like the Doctor, who is determined to find out what exactly is behind the strange noises, death also has a certain allure.

CLARA: That’s you turning it, right?
DOCTOR: No. Get in the Tardis.
CLARA: Why?
DOCTOR: I have to know.
CLARA: Doctor. Doctor
DOCTOR: The Tardis, now!

We all have at least heard of people who perform crazy stunts and who are often accused of trying to cheat death. I am most definitely not one of those people and often view their antics as crazy, yet at the same time I understand the impulse to want to get as close to death as possible-to find out what actually occurs, what happens, without actually dying. Death holds a perverse attraction, and for those of us with insatiable curiosity death is the definitive puzzle to be solved.

But the danger with fearing/obsessing about death, (or any other fear) is that it can hinder one’s ability to fully live and can instead isolate ourselves from one another.   In society, the fear and fascination with death is a central feature in the TV shows we watch, the books we read, as well as the news we consume. There is a reason bloody video games and horror movies garner huge ratings and why the news continues to describe in graphic and sometimes exploitative details various instances of death. Fear can be manipulated and used by those in power as a form of division. Muslims are terrorists, blacks and Hispanics are violent, undocumented workers are trying to steal American jobs and destabilize the economy, the mentally ill are dangerous, etc. Fear has been used to justify going to war, to limiting and dismantling constitutional rights, and as justification for endorsing the complete annihilation of perceived threats.

Unfortunately, some forms of Christianity also rely on fear as a manipulation tactic in order to gain converts. Accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior or risk spending an eternity in hell. Preach the gospel to all of your friends and family so that they can avoid burning. The gospel is reduced into a thinly veiled obsession with fear and death.

But what if there was a different way of living that acknowledges fear and the reality of death, yet does not become consumed with it? In the final moments, Clara tells a young Doctor:

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For me, as a Christian, one of the central messages that lies at the heart of my faith is the insistence that fear and death cannot and will not overcome God’s purposes. Jesus Christ is portrayed in the gospels as living his life in such a way that being crucified by the religious authorities and Roman government was the only possible outcome. Jesus consistently called into question the empire’s and religious authorities’ obsession with material wealth, status, and power. In the ancient Roman Empire, in order to survive, it was in a person’s best interest to blend in with the dominant culture. If the dominant culture was heavily hierarchical, then of course, one learned to stay in one’s place. If the dominant political and religious culture viewed the poor, the blind, the sick as unimportant or as sinful, then one did not associate with those condemned by those in power. Yet Jesus refused to fit in. Jesus repeatedly told the ruling authorities that they were wrong. No one, challenges an empire and expects to live. Yet the gospels also depict Jesus as being afraid of dying. In the garden of Gethsemane, he is in agony, begging for a different outcome. Yet unlike his disciples, who’s fear of the Roman authorities and of being killed causes them to react violently or run away, Jesus does not let his fear consume him. He is afraid, but his fear does not separate him from God or God’s purposes. He refuses to become a coward.

Being afraid is ok and in many cases serves an important purpose. But fear can also consume us, especially the fear of death. We can allow our fears to isolate us and cause us to view the world as an inherently dangerous and frightening place, which will then color how we interact with others, or we can harness said fear to make us better people. Fear can bring us together. The fear of losing the one’s we love to death, can in moderation enable us to appreciate them while they are here with us and to cherish them. The fear of terrorism can force us to reflect on the ways that our nation has contributed to its rise. Instead of denouncing all people of a certain religious or ethnic background as terrorists, our concerns and fears can unite us with the direct victims of terrorism and can help us figure out effective ways to lessen terrorism without defaulting to violence. No matter how hard we try we are never going to eradicate the sources of our fears, we are never going to outwit death, but we can at the very least decide how our fears will impact us.

The Stories That We Tell: Robot of Sherwood

As children, the stories we enjoy or create often involve heroes who always end up saving the day. These heroes are unabashedly good. Rarely, if ever do these heroes give us any reason to doubt their motivation or their ultimate success. And while these stories tend to be a bit simplistic in notions of good and evil, they also embody a hope in the world and a hope that eventually everything will work out. It speaks of a hope that there are genuinely good people out there fighting against injustice. As we get older we don’t stop telling stories, but they tend to take on a more realistic bent. We recognize that good does not always triumph, that those who are supposed to be heroes are often flawed and can be just as wicked as the “bad” guys. As we mature we see that evil isn’t confined to one or two bad apples, but that all of us are capable of doing wrong and wounding other people. In fact, evil does not always rely on active instances of exploitation and injustice but remaining passive and silent in the face of corruption is often enough to allow evil to succeed. Having a more nuanced view of how the world works isn’t bad and is in fact needed if we are to navigate an increasingly complex world. The problem arises when in addition to discarding the simplistic notions endorsed in our childhood stories, we also lose hope.

In the Robot of Sherwood, the Doctor gives Clara the opportunity to visit any person, time period, or planet. And excitedly, like a little girl, she states that she wants to see Robin Hood.

DOCTOR: Robin Hood.
CLARA: Yeah. I love that story. I’ve always loved it, ever since I was little.
DOCTOR: Robin Hood, the heroic outlaw, who robs from the rich and gives to the poor.
CLARA: Yeah.
DOCTOR: He’s made up. There’s no such thing.
CLARA: Ah, you see?

And of course, part of the reason this episode is funny is because of the Doctor’s insistence that Robin Hood does not exist. (The other reason has to do with the fact that Robin Hood and the Doctor keep trying to outdo and outwit each other…) A few minutes into the episode, the Doctor attempts to prove that Robin Hood and his band of merry men don’t exist by taking blood and hair samples from them. He keeps trying to explain away their existence. They aren’t holograms but maybe they have arrived in a theme park or they are in a mini-scope.  Throughout most of the episode, he remains convinced that Robin Hood could not exist. He explains his reasoning to Clara shortly after she makes her request to meet him:

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Later on in the episode, the Doctor even insists that Robin Hood is a robot created by the sheriff and his mechanical thugs:

SHERIFF: Robin Hood is not one of mine.
DOCTOR: Of course he is. He’s a robot, created by your mechanical mates.
SHERIFF: Why would they do that?
DOCTOR: To pacify the locals, give them false hope. He’s the opiate of the masses.
SHERIFF: Why would we create an enemy to fight us? What sense would that make? That would be a terrible idea.
DOCTOR: Yes! Yes, it would. Wouldn’t it? Yes, that would be a rubbish idea. Why would you do that? But he can’t be. He’s not real. He’s a legend!

The Doctor understands more than anyone that old fashioned heroes don’t exist. When Clara refers to him as a hero, the Doctor quickly dismisses that assertion. He knows himself. He is very aware of all the times he has failed to save people and the times he has led others, perhaps inadvertently, to their deaths. He has every right to be skeptical of Robin Hood. And those of us in the real world, understand how the world works. We know that things don’t always get better, that abuse in its various forms run rampant, that people spend their lives fighting for social justice only to be murdered or to have their life’s work destroyed. In fact, many of us are so aware of the pain and suffering in this world that most of us will do whatever it takes to keep that hope alive in the children that we care for. We want them to hold onto their childhood hope and innocence for as long as possible. But the thing is, as we age, we too have stories that we hold onto into adulthood-stories that tell of our personal failures, stories of abuse, exploitation, etc stories that reduce hope to the confines of a children’s tale.

In this episode the Doctor’s stubborn insistence that Robin Hood does not exist and his dedication to his own personal narrative, which postulated that true heroes do not in fact exist, simply adds to the humor of this episode. In the real world, the stories that we stubbornly hold onto as individuals and as a society can have life and death consequences. The stories we tell ourselves dictate how we act. If we believe that the world is beyond hope or redemption-we will act like it. We will be indifferent to tales of suffering, we will passively accept violence, murder, poverty, injustice etc as simply the way the world works. It seems as if the older we get the more that we view hope and the stories that endorse it as nothing more than fairy-tales.

In society, we value verifiable facts to the point where stories and myths are treated as unimportant and they are denigrated as unscientific and false. In regards to myths, we act like the Doctor and dismiss them as silly. However, theologian Marcus Borg, provides a different viewpoint exhorting the value of myths, specifically religious myths:

…Myths are metaphorical narratives about the relation between this world and the sacred. Myths typically speak about the beginning and the ending of the world, its origin and destiny, in its relation to God. Myths use non literal language; in this sense, they do not narrate facts. But myths are necessary if we are to speak at all about the world’s origin and destiny in God. We have no other language for such matters… myths are true even if they are not literally true.
-Reading the Bible Again for the First Time

The myths/stories we hold onto matter. I for one, do not think that the incarnation and the resurrection are literal facts that can be scientifically and historically proven. I know some people will want to argue with me and will ignore everything I have said thus far and will continue to say. But for me the historical validity of sacred stories does not matter as much as what the story says about God and God’s relationship to the world. I cherish the story of the incarnation, even though it can’t be scientifically and historically “proven” (though some have tried) because  it expresses the reality of a compassionate God who not only stands alongside those who are suffering, but who also suffers with the marginalized and the oppressed. Likewise, in terms of the resurrection, I do not interpret it as a literal and historical event. I do think it points to the larger truth that the systems and powers of this world do not overpower the purposes and justice of God.

The myths and stories do have value. The Doctor does not believe that he is a hero and as a result he cannot believe that Robin Hood exists. And the Doctor is right, old fashioned, perfect heroes do not exist. Robin Hood coincides that much and admits he isn’t a hero. But the stories that we base our lives around, whether or not they are “literally” true can point to a larger reality. The Doctor may not think he is a hero, but he has inspired Clara to open her mind and believe in the impossible. Perhaps in the end what ultimately matters are the stories that inspire us and that we re-tell again and again:

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In need of Redemption: Into the Dalek

What is redemption? And can the most evil, vile creatures be redeemed? In the episode, Into the Dalek  the Doctor meets a Dalek (that he later nicknames Rusty) who seems to be repentant and in agony over the actions of his species. “Daleks must be destroyed!” He insists. Of course the Doctor’s interest is piqued. Daleks are ruthless creatures, unable to experience empathy or compassion. They are callous and never waiver in their quest to dominant the universe and destroy all inferior life forms (ie every other life form). So to be confronted by a Dalek who seems to have developed a conscious activates the Doctor’s curiosity.

Of course the Doctor does not believe that Rusty has actually had a conversion experience. The Dalek is damaged and he seeks to understand how and why this damage resulted in a complete personality change. As he explicates to Clara and the soldiers:

DOCTOR: Now, this is the cortex vault, a supplementary electronic brain. Memory banks, but more than that. This is what keeps the Dalek pure.
GRETCHEN: How are Daleks pure?
DOCTOR: Dalek mutants are born hating. This is what stokes the fire, extinguishes even the tiniest glimmer of kindness or compassion. Imagine the worst possible thing in the universe, then don’t bother, because you’re looking at it right now. This is evil refined as engineering.

The Daleks are intrinsically evil-their whole purpose is to kill and annihilate. How can you redeem a being that has evil encoded into its DNA?

When the Doctor discovers a breach in Rusty that is poisoning him with radiation, the Doctor fixes him and Rusty goes back to his “normal” self. He becomes what he always was-destructive and consumed with hate.

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It seems as if the Doctor was right. There are no such thing as “good” Daleks. Rusty’s brief flash of humanity is the result of an injury. Clara, however, as a teacher, is intent on getting the Doctor to look beyond surface evidence that confirm his biases. What did they learn? She asks. He insists that they learned that there are no good Daleks, She rejects his answer. What did they learn?

The Doctor’s numerous experiences with the Daleks as well as his knowledge of their anatomy assures him that the Daleks are unwaveringly wicked.   As a result, he can’t see any other way of dealing with them. He will forever be locked into a never ending battle with the Daleks as they continue with their attempts to annihilate the universe, and he attempts to stop them by killing as many as possible. Yet Clara’s insistence that he look past his own prejudices enables the Doctor to have a shift in perspective. Maybe things can be different.

DOCTOR: The Dalek isn’t just some angry blob in a Dalekanium tank. If it was, the radiation would have turned it into a raging lunatic.
JOURNEY: It is a raging lunatic, it’s a Dalek.
DOCTOR: But for a moment, it wasn’t. The radiation allowed it to expand its consciousness, to consider things beyond its natural terms of reference. It became good. That means a good Dalek is possible.

Clara restores Rusty’s memories of death and new life: universes being destroyed and new stars being born, and the Doctor links Rusty to his own mind, and exposes Rusty to the universe. At first it seems to be working, perhaps a new way of interacting with the Daleks is possible-one that does not rely on death and destruction. However, the link with the Doctor exposes Rusty to the Doctor’s deep and justified hatred of the Daleks and Rusty goes on a rampage to destroy his peers.

RUSTY: The Daleks are exterminated

DOCTOR: Of course they are. That’s what you do, isn’t it?

RUSTY: I must go with them.
DOCTOR: Of course you must. You’ve unfinished work, haven’t you?

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The Doctor is disappointed. He wanted to save Rusty’s “soul.” He wanted to believe that redemption for the Dalek species was possible, putting an end to needless fighting and destruction. In addition, the Doctor is unsure of who he is. “Am I good man?” He asks Clara earlier in the episode. Perhaps in redeeming Rusty, he would be redeeming himself.

It is easy to look at this episode and extrapolate that the ultimate meaning is that redemption is impossible-at least for some. Pure evil exists and is embodied by some groups and there is no reasoning with them. They will default, eventually, to their intrinsic nature. We see this type of thinking in the way that countries describe their enemies. To be sure, there are terrorist groups, such as ISIS that would make the Daleks cower in fear. And the temptation is to dehumanize them. Their blind hatred and their blasé attitude toward killing innocent people-not just journalists, but also scores of their own people, justifiably causes us to recoil in horror. Groups that will massacre untold number of people just to make a point, are extremely dangerous. The temptation is to dismiss them as intrinsically evil and as unreasonable. And as a result, government leaders rehash the same old strategy to get rid of those who they claim embody evil: death and destruction. Any other response is immediately off the tables. You can’t redeem evil doers. Even though, the very people we dehumanize, often serve as a reflection of the evil that lurks within us and they often serve as a condemnation for our (or our government’s) failures and atrocities. When we reject the humanity of our enemies, we diminish our own.

The Doctor has moments of ruthlessness in this episode. He doesn’t care that Journey lost her brother, and he cracks jokes about Ross’ death. Not to mention that throughout the show’s history, he has had moments where his hatred and thirst for vengeance leads him to act callously. When we view others as irredeemable, we begin to justify taking them out, using whatever means possible and the line between those who are “good” and those who are “evil” begins to blur. Yet in a world marred by violence and brokenness, and sin, what other options do we have?

To be honest, I struggle to find an adequate answer. I can’t tie this post up in a neat little bow, (believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve re-written this final paragraph a number of times). The reality is that in a world filled with war and destruction easy answers are inadequate. For instance, Christians often talk about loving our enemies, but what does that mean? Sometimes the phrase “loving our enemies” sounds like nothing more than a pat answer that one says to avoid doing the hard and difficult work of trying to transform the world. That phrase often becomes an excuse to not take any action. And for those of us in relatively privileged conditions, we can simply tout the phrase love our enemies and walk away without engaging in the difficult work of deciphering what that looks like in a hurting world. How do we love our enemies and espouse justice? In addition, Christians often hold up Christ as the ultimate figure of redemption, but what does redemption mean? Is it simply about avoiding hell? Can redemption occur in this world? And how do we work towards said redemption? How do we join with God in the work of transforming the world?

In this episode, the Doctor ultimately fails. Yet the adventure continues. In the real world, such failure is devastating. How many people have died struggling to advocate for justice and equality? How many people have been crushed by the prevailing forces that endorse the status quo? How many times can one “enemy” be defeated, only for more to rise up or even worse, for us to find ourselves as the perpetrators of violence, inequality, and injustice? Why not just give up on this world and turn our back on the idea of redemption? Yet, God seems to be infinitely more annoying than Clara in asking us to rethink what we think we know. What have we learned? That life is hopeless, that violence and death will always win? Is that all we have learned? Or do we have to look a little bit harder to find hope and courage to do things differently, even in the midst of failure? At the end of the episode Clara states:

You asked me if you’re a good man and the answer is, I don’t know. But I think you try to be and I think that’s probably the point.

We live in a world where despair and hopelessness reign. Systematic change and long standing peace seems impossible to accomplish and attempts to bring about radical change-sometimes, if not often fail. Maybe the point of life and of saying we have faith is that we continually try to aid in God’s transforming work in the world. Maybe the point is that we continue to work as co-redeemers with Christ, in the midst of a hurting world.